Tech Guide

Say goodbye to your debit card: here's how to use your phone to pay at the store

Key Points
  • We walk you through how to set up Apple Pay, Samsung Pay and Android Pay
  • Once you're ready to go, you'll be able to tap your phone to buy goods where they're accepted.
  • Don't be afraid, it's not as complicated as it sounds.

Todd Haselton | CNBC

Every morning I wake up, drive to Dunkin' Donuts and tap my phone to buy a large iced coffee.

There's something fun about that experience. I don't have to reach for my wallet and search for cash or pull out a debit card. I just lean over the debit card reader at the coffee shop, tap my phone, and go on with my life.

You need a phone that supports this functionality to partake in the fun, but most devices sold over the past couple of years work in that fashion. Three primary options are available: Android Pay for most Android smartphones, Samsung Pay for Samsung smartphones and Apple Pay for iPhones.

Here's how to get started with each one.

Android Pay

Todd Haselton | CNBC

Android Pay hasn't grabbed headlines like it did when it first launched, but it's still a very viable option on most Android smartphones. It's your best bet if you have an Android phone but it isn't a Samsung device with Samsung Pay.

  • Download Android Pay from the Google Play App Store.
  • Open the app and tap "Add Credit or Debit card."
  • You can choose cards already associated with your Google Account or add a new one. Agree to the terms and conditions that pop up. Then verify your card via email (you'll receive a number to enter into the app)
  • That's it! Now, the next time you see a card reader with the Android Pay logo, just open the app, choose your card, and tap to pay.

Samsung Pay

Todd Haselton | CNBC

Samsung Pay is my favorite of mobile payment options because it's able to work with more checkout terminals. In fact, it even works on older machines that only have magnetic stripe readers, thanks to technology from Samsung's acquisition of a company named LoopPay.

Here's how to set it up.

  • Open up Samsung Pay, which should be pre-installed on your Samsung smartphone. (If for some reason you don't have it, get it here.)
  • If you're prompted to sign in, use your Samsung account credentials or create an account. This is where you'll also create a PIN for accessing your cards before payment.
  • Tap credit/debit cards and then tap "Add."
  • Use the camera viewfinder to center your credit card. This allows your phone to capture the card number, expiration date and your name. You can also enter this in manually.
  • Next add in the verification code.
  • You'll need to confirm your card with a code sent to you via email or text message from your bank. Enter this in.
  • Now you're ready to go. Samsung lets you swipe up from the bottom of the home screen to easily access your cards when you're ready to pay, and you'll verify your identity with a pre-set pin code or your irises (if you have a newer Galaxy S8 or Galaxy S8+ smartphone.
  • Samsung Pay is even offering a temporary promotion for a free $20 gift card for registering your first card, which you can use anywhere Samsung Pay is accepted.

Apple Pay

Todd Haselton | CNBC

You might already have Apple Pay set up without knowing it. Apple's iPhone asks if you want to get started while you're initiating your phone for the first time, and Apple Pay can be used in the App Store or for mobile payments.

If you're not sure, open up the Apple Wallet application, which is pre-installed on your phone.

  • If you don't see any credit cards under the Pay icon, tap the + button at the top-right of the screen to add one.
  • If you don't have Touch ID setup yet, you'll be walked through registering your fingerprints.
  • Next, use the camera viewfinder to scan in your card. Just center it in the frame and Apple Pay will grab all of the details, or you can enter them manually.
  • Like with the other payment options, you'll need to verify your card using a text message or email code sent to you from your bank. Enter that and you're all set.
  • To use Apple Pay while your phone is locked, just double tap the home button. It'll bring up your favorite debit or credit card, or you can select others at the bottom of the screen. Hold your finger to Touch ID as you tap the phone on an Apple Pay-approved reader (just look for the sticker.

That's it! Welcome to the future.